In his 2008 Masters address, the Augusta National chairman Billy Payne introduced a program that allowed children ages 8 to 16 free admission to the tournament when accompanied by a ticketed patron. Five years later, a 14-year-old will experience the Masters from inside the ropes as one of the 94 competitors, the beneficiary of another grand plan conceived by the club in 2008 to help the sport grow: the creation of the competition that became the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
Guan Tianlang of China, the event’s reigning champion, will bring his budding game to Augusta National for the first men’s major this week. The vision set forth by Augusta National in concert with the Royal and Ancient to pursue, in Payne’s words, “the development of amateur golf for the purpose of creating heroes and legends among the representative countries and establishing role models who attract other kids to the game,” has, in Guan, its embodiment.
An eighth grader built like a bamboo stalk, Guan will be the seventh Chinese player to tee it up in the Masters and easily the most precocious. He is the youngest participant in the tournament’s 77-year history, his presence portending the men’s game’s Asia craze. The pipeline of talent includes Ye Wocheng, who qualified for this year’s China Open on the European Tour at age 12, surpassing the record set by Guan, who was 13 when he competed in the event last year.
For more on this story visit: KAREN CROUSE, NEW YORK TIMES